Have you ever heard of work truck upfitting? Upfitting is a process by which a vehicle is “upfitted” to become more specialized for a certain type of work duty. For instance, one might spec a Dodge Ram 4500 for light maintenance duty. The upfit may consist of six main components:
- Chassis painting
- Service body mount
- LED lights
- Hitch welding
- Cab guard installation
- Ladder rack
The fact is, upfitting a truck to perform a specific task requires careful planning and coordination among a fleet’s suppliers, managers and truck drivers. So what do you need to keep in mind as you go about upfitting your truck for special duty? Let’s take a closer look.
Involve the Right People
Before you can get started on the actual hard work of the upfit, you need to involve more than just a fleet manager and technician. You must also make sure you involve whoever the end-user is. Branch managers and of course, the actual technician, also need to be part of the discussions. After all, it is this group of people who know how the equipment is supposed to work and allows them to safely perform their job.
Also make sure you poll your truck drivers to find out what they require to get the job done on a daily basis. By having a clear outline of how the driver will be using the vehicle, you can pick the appropriate upfitter design package, while also ensuring you are choosing the right chassis.
By involving as many people as you can, you’ll also make sure you don’t miss any important operational factors, such as dock or overhead height and load needs.
Keep the Operation In Mind
If you aren’t taking operational measures into account, you could waste considerable work effort and cut into employee productivity. Make sure you always complete a site visit to check out what the operating conditions will be.
More than just the site, you must also consider the conditions the vehicle will be operating in. Things like terrain, weather, annual mileage and payload should be at the top of your observational checklist.
Also make sure you are evaluating key performance requirements, such as gradability and startability. One example of this could be the vehicle’s powertrain. It’s not entirely uncommon that a landscaper’s truck, with its 10-foot dump bed, may spend a significant amount of time climbing steep 10-11 percent grades with a trailer attached. If your vehicle’s powertrain can’t handle that operational load, you might encounter maintenance problems down the road.
Manage Your Expectations
Remember to manage your expectations when it comes to your upfitting job. Establish supply chain delivery expectations and consider the full scope of order-to-delivery. Stay current with the OEM build schedule and try to avoid last-minute ordering.
Realistic timelines should also take into account weather delays or rail car shortages. Considering upfitting a vehicle typically takes as much as six to nine months from order to delivery, you want to make sure you aren’t falling short of false expectations.
Try standardizing your upfit package and try not to go spec crazy or pile on options. Without a certain level of upfit standardization, your ability to move the vehicle from location to location becomes limited.
Finally, always make sure your fleet managers and technicians are doing close examinations of the equipment being used across the fleet. Recognize that the process will likely be long and somewhat complicated. From deciding on a chassis to locking down hard quotes, there’s a lot that foes into a vehicle upfit. If you aren’t planning well, you may not be implementing the best process for the job.
Also ensure you are getting vehicle orders in early enough to secure their allocation. Don’t put in an order mere hours before a cutoff. Manufacturers will accept the orders, but it may be days – or even weeks – before you find out that orders are canceled due to low supply or a new model year.
The fact is, upfitting is no small job. There’s a lot of thought and consideration that must go into prepping a vehicle for a tough job. Stay cool, stay calm, and stay collected as you create your next vehicle upfit plan.